Today, we are very happy to invite our UK ambassador Andy Drinkwater. Andy is a Chester based SEO consultant who has been doing SEO for more than 18 years. He has helped a lot of companies with their online marketing and growth efforts. Deeply involved in the SEO sphere, Andy loves to share his results and findings.
We have invited him to know more about him, his projects for the year and how he is evolving in the SEO community. The video of this interview is available at the end of the article.
Can you introduce yourself?
I am an SEO consultant, I work myself basically through the company IQSEO. SEO is something that has been following me for many years now. I first got my taste of SEO back in 1999 where I felt into the market place purely by chance. I was working with a new startup and back then it was this little known company called Google who was fairly new into the scene. I was in charge to be sure that the website was set up properly and foundable. Back then, SEO was very different. It was more about how quickly you could spam a website, how many times you could get a keyword through a page and other durty tricks that people used.
Over the years gradually, that sort of things evolved into where I am now. Prior to 1999, I started in 1997 as a UX consultant, working for a number of large UK banks and building societies and even further back from there in 1993 I started my online careers. It was more like networking at that point and I started copywriting and getting used to saw what people will rush in and need. So even at the very early stage I was trying to get people comfortable with using various tools. And back then I was writing Windows help files.
That is where I started off and where I am now. There is never two days on the same which why I love it.
You have been working for different industries. What have been your biggest challenges this past year?
There have been a few. One of the biggest is trying to explain and get my clients ready for mobile-first. That is going to be very big very soon and Google is already testing some sites at the moment. So it is about getting sites ready, making sure that if they go to mobile, it is where it needs to be. Making sure that there is a responsive site that is loading quickly. So mobile-first has been one of the biggest challenge.
The other thing I have been working on a lot as well, as you probably know, is doing SEO auditing for many different size companies. One of the aspect that is very important to Google at the moment is usability. If it happens on your site, then it has to stay on your site, you have got to work the way around the different pages on there.
Working UX into an audit has been a bit of a challenge for me as well. So what I have done is that I have implemented the lacks of Hotjar. What I intend to do now is that I will look at a website with somebody else’s eyes. So if I can see them working their way down a page and they are looking at some text, then I know that this text has some interest. So as long you can watch these live video recordings, the more you will be understanding the way people have been working on the website. That all correspond to how Google also ranks websites as well.
I have done a lot on testing this and you have probably seen it on Twitter as I share my findings there. I get some very good traffic increases and I will come onto this a bit later so as the internal linking side of thing but also by making sure that people stay on the website for a long period of time. So here are the main challenges, mobile and trying to get people happy on the page itself. If they are not happy, they are not going to stay, going somewhere else and Google is going to knock you out for it.
You have been talking about the mobile-first index. How do you get prepared for it?
I think ultimately you got to be testing the website itself. I keep coming back to responsive because more often that not your average size sites are powered by WordPress a lot these days. You don’t necessarily sort of see as many of the larger sites like the big e-commerce websites because they are not going to be powered by WordPress organizers. It may be something very specific to them. But if you look at something more technique like Ebay and at some of the problems they face with mobile use, it is clear that this is not something high up there. You will sort of go on a listing, people still have to pinch and zoom. Even now, you have to pinch and zoom to actually see a description. So if you have to do that, then you are going to hit mobile-first and you are going to start experiencing problems.
Speed is going to be an important aspect. Various other SEOs have been doing speed tests I have not personally but I do follow lots of research and speed is going to be very important as well.
People often wonder how they are going to go regarding link building for mobile because Google is turning it all in its head. Mobile is now going to be powering your desktop site.
John Mueller actually said a little while ago that there is going to be aspects that are going to be pulled back from the desktop site so we use mobile-first as well. Make sure the website is easy to use, make sure people are not scrolling too far because nobody wants to get the phone in the hand and scrolling until you get where you need to be.
Google have also said that one of the area that I have been looking at at the moment is if you hide text on a mobile under an accordion or under a table or something like that then they can see it but they are just not going to get the weight they deserve. With the mobile first index, you can actually have a more usable page by allowing people to decide if they want to see more content or more information.
Do you have any good resolution for 2018?
Yes absolutely. My top one is to try to make more conferences, try to make a little bit more for myself. I am very ashamed to say that last year was my very first year in BrightonSEO. After all the years, I keep promising I would go and that is where I met you guys for the first time face to face. It was really nice and it was really eye-opening so certainly more conferences and more other bigger conferences.
Obviously, mobile forces is one we have already spoken about and that is something I have got to try to get all my clients ready for now and also in the future as well.
You may or may not be aware but I do a lot of reputation management work which is burying negative press. This is a particular facet of SEO. The concept is still the same, you have to rank somebody so they come high over the pages but you are doing it in a much quicker time. It is still a long term strategy because you have to look at the content you are trying to bury. So I do a lot of testing around this as well and I need to find more time to work on my own site.
You mentioned attending conferences, have you considered talking to some?
I have only spoke a few times like the one in Chester which myself and another couple of guys started up last year. I actually have a conference where I’ll be talking next week which is Optimisey. He seems to build a really interesting following of business owners and agencies that come along. So I am talking there next week and as for anything larger than that the thought of standing upon the stage at BrightonSEO terrifies me. I have never spoken to a crowd that large before. I have spoken to meetings and presentations in front of 30-40-50 people but never ever looked up into a sea of people. Maybe it is something I will do at some point but I think I will have to work myself.
You are deeply involved in the local SEO community around Chester but also on the Twittersphere. What is your strategy regarding personal branding?
As a consultant, you are your brand. But I have two sides.
First, me as Andy Drinkwater and I also got IQSEO. Now IQSEO is probably more my brand than me as an individual although with the name Drinkwater that attend to be remembered very easily. So if you are not born with a name like this you have to put a bit of work into it.
I do a lot of work for branding. The first one is making sure you have yourself into as many different areas as possible, making sure you have your personal website in check, making sure you have your social profiles set. On top of your social profiles, be social. That is one of the most important thing for me. I like people to know they can come and talk to me, they can ask me questions, they can always find me on Twitter.
So if somebody were starting out and wondering how to start, I would say first off foremost, carve yourself a niche. Don’t try to make you as a brand and know everything about everything because SEO is an absolutely huge field. You have people that are specialists within international SEO, other who are very proficient at doing technical SEO audits, which is one of the things I do. I don’t necessary push myself as a keyword researcher which is another side of things as well. I don’t either push myself that much these days as a link builder because link building tends to be very time consuming whilst I still do it for a number of clients.
Don’t be jack-of-all-trades, don’t try to say that you know everything about everything. Join in conversations. There is a number of industry experts out there and I follow some of these amazing people as well. Get into the conversation and look at what they are discussing and if you got something you can add then show them. Be known for a particular area but don’t try just throwing random facts you have picked up from Google. So I would say being a specialist in a particular area is very important. Personally, I only focus on the technical SEO side of things and also on the online reputation management. And regarding the technical SEO side, I would be lost without OnCrawl at the moment. Some of the stuff you are producing are absolutely fantastic so kudos for that.
Apart from SEO, what is Andy doing on his free time?
I have recently started with a personal trainer so twice a week I am down to the gym while the personal trainer slowly kills me. Then I go for a swim, a steam, then I go for a sauna and that is the end of the evening. And outside of that, I love classic cars and I’m always changing cars. I love to go out for the weekend and have a nice ride around Wales for example which is around the corner. Then I come back and I generally hop back into social media to see what is happening.
Finally, how does it feel to be one an OnCrawl ambassador? What is your most favorite feature?
It is both existing and humbling at the same time because we have been speaking many times on email even before I had an OnCrawl account a couple of years ago. It has always been one of these go-to tools for me. In terms of being an ambassador it means I can also – with a degree of excitement – get showed beforehand to the features. And when some of these features turn up it is absolutely amazing. In terms of features, the one that got me the most excited recently was the link flow. It is an ongoing joke online for me with internal links because I do so much with them. To actually have a tool that shows me a state of the internal link structure as a visualization is a huge benefit. If I am creating a hierarchy for a site from a technical site point, I want something easy to navigate. I want a good homepage and a nice structure to build these hubpages on. So when I first saw the Link Flow I was impressed and that has been something I was really waiting for. So that is my favorite part of the tool.
Thank you Andy for your time and reply, it is such an honor to have you as a brand ambassador! Looking forward to meet you again in BrightonSEO.